By: Matthew Striplen
What do unborn siblings, futuristic technology and adorable chubby birds have in common? If you answer anything other than Toki Tori, you should probably consult a psychologist. Toki Tori is a cute puzzle-platformer that makes use of a wide array of spiffy tech to endow your bird, Toki Tori, with various powers to save your unhatched brethren from the sinister enemies patrolling the arena.
The game lists easy and normal modes to choose from before play actually begins. Instead of a watered down version of the normal levels, the easy levels are completely original and are ideal for younger audiences. Once you’ve completed a set of the normal levels, Hard and Bonus levels for the corresponding world will be unlocked. These unlockables are seriously hard and will definitely require some head scratching to get through.
I found it strange that in a puzzle game with very specific goals, no scoring or timing systems exist. While this may be an attempt to remain a “casual” game, the Hard and Bonus levels are certainly difficult enough to warrant a more hardcore audience. Scoring would also pave the way for social play, something most modern games include.
Once a level is selected, the player is dropped straight into the game without any backstory. Only upon doing some science, a.k.a. looking on the Interwebs, did I discover Toki Tori actually has a rather colorful history behind him. Plus, all the crazy technology makes a lot more sense, too. Why the developers chose to leave this out is a mystery to me.
Toki Tori is an HD remake of the classic 2001 Game Boy Color title and looks absolutely great, complete with full 1080p resolution. The colors are sharp and bright, and the animations look mostly great. The porcupines, however, look a little odd. Everything appears normal while they walk around or stand still, but they will occasionally shake their heads while immobilized. For some reason, this particular animation causes a huge blurring effect, like they were warping the fabric of the Matrix. The soundtrack is suitably light and cheery, matching the content well. Since no dialogue exists, it’s also entirely possible to play this game on mute without losing much.
The object of Toki Tori is simple: collect all the eggs. Many obstacles block your path, such as porcupines, ghosts and pits of lava, to name a few. To help circumnavigate these hurdles, Toki Tori has an arsenal of “tools” to use, ranging from the mundane to the awesome. Probably the most boring would be the ability to shift certain types of blocks but only in a specific manner.
On the other end of the spectrum, the freeze gun is pretty sweet and yields a very satisfying sound with every shot. This gun is used to freeze enemies, immobilizing them and transforming them into immovable blocks that can be used to your advantage. Enemies can also be essential to completing levels, which is one of my favorite aspects of the game. Though many levels may appear straightforward at first, the game forces the player to use these tools in unconventional ways and to think outside the box.
Although this technically isn’t a tool, Toki Tori’s most useful ability is rewinding time. After being hit by an enemy, the player will be asked to either restart the level or to rewind, which places Toki Tori back in time a few seconds. Unlike tools on select levels, the rewind ability can be used indefinitely, which promotes trial and error on the part of the player. This immensely streamlines gameplay by eliminating the need to restart upon death. While this undoubtedly improves gameplay, the developers could have made this ability much more interesting instead of restricting its use.
One element that would be a fantastic addition would be the ability to create new content. With its very partitioned style of gameplay and innovative level design, allowing the users to truly make the game their own seems like a logical next step.
I love a good puzzle, and Toki Tori serves up plenty. The only thing preventing the game from reaching its true potential is the lack of variety. While the tools certainly added some spice, I was left wanting more. After a few worlds, I felt like I had already seen most of what the game had to offer. Despite these negative points, Toki Tori is still irresistibly cute and the gameplay, though repetitive, is undeniably challenging and rewarding.